On July 27, India lost its most popular president. The president who was a space scientist, a writer, a poet and a teacher. Popularly known as India’s Missile Man, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam died the way he lived his life – at work. An enthusiast for sharing ideas with the youth, Dr Kalam, who would have turned 84 this year, was addressing students at IIM-Shillong when he suffered a massive cardiac arrest and died shortly afterwards. An illustrious space scientist, Dr Kalam rose to become India’s first citizen in the most unexpected manner. The move came after he was nominated as an all-party consensus candidate in 2002. Dr Kalam believed that with rapid technological developments in the last 55 years, geospatial technology will be a game changer, particularly in the development of rural and remote places of the world. At the keynote address delivered the Geospatial World Forum 2012 in Amsterdam, he deliberated upon the applications of geospatial technology for sustainable development of 3 billion people living in rural areas of the world. He also proposed the formation of a World Geospatial Knowledge Platform, which would be a joint venture to develop the products and systems of geospatial technology using the core competencies of multiple nations.
ISRO chief Kiran Kumar has described Dr Kalam’s demise as a tremendous loss to the country. “It is extremely sad to know that Kalam is no more. He was such a great personality and a gentleman. No words to express,” he said. While expressing his condolences, Jack Dangermond, the President and Founder of Esri, said, “The president was both a thoughtful scientist and a visionary as it relates to geospatial data and technology. He helped pioneer everything from remote sensing to open data, geo-data policies for India. Mostly I appreciated his open personality and practical approach to discussing the future of GIS in India.” Kalam’s reverence in the global geospatial community is testament by the fact that a global satellite for earth observation and disaster risk reduction, proposed under the UN framework, will be dedicated to him. CANEUS Organisation on Space Technologies for Societal Applications aims to use this satellite to connect disaster and environmental management system on a global level.